We had finally made it to the Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions, and something we had both been very excited to experience since starting to plan our trip.
The 243km road follows the spectacular coastline between the Victoria towns of Allansford and Torquay, and was built between 1919 and 1932 by returning soldiers from WWI.
We decided to spend almost 3 days travelling along the road, making sure we were not rushing, and could see as much of it as possible. With either viewpoints or attractions every few hundred metres along large sections of the road, there is far too much to put it all into one blog, so this post will give an overview of our highlights.
The most well known and photographed of the road’s attractions are the Twelve Apostles. Confusingly there are only actually eight Apostles remaining, with the rest long since collapsing into the sea. We decided to view these at sunrise, to avoid the tour buses, and provide us with what we hoped would be spectacular views. This involved getting up in a pitch black campsite at 5am, the highlight of which was me slipping over in a muddy puddle, while Rachael stood and laughed.
Despite our early start there was still plenty of people who had arrived before us. We joined them in making the short walk from the visitor centre to the boardwalk, where we battled the strong winds to reach the viewing platforms. While the sunset was a disappointment, with the forecast clear sky failing to materialise, the views were still incredible. It was amazing to watch as wave after wave crashed into the towering columns, and it was immediately obvious why it’s so popular with tourists.
We were possibly even more impressed by the London Arch formation. Formally known as the London Bridge, the second archway connecting it to the mainland collapsed in 1991, leaving several tourists stranded. The viewing platforms here provided brilliant views from either side, and there was plenty of sun around this time to make it all look even better.
Along the same stretch of coastline is the Grotto. While it is essentially just a very small opening in the rocks, the unusual formation provides a lookout to the ocean, and there are great reflections from the pool of water at the bottom.
We also enjoyed the walk down to the beach at Loch Ard Gorge, named after a ship that ran aground nearby in 1878, with the only two survivors washing ashore into the narrow gorge. There were steep steps down to the beach but it was definitely well worth it.
The only attraction we paid for along the Great Ocean Road was the Cape Otway Lighthouse, which is a 12km detour through the Great Otway National Park. Although the views from the top were great, there was little else to do there and we therefore thought the tickets were overpriced at $18 (£11.50) per person.
We were far more impressed with the lighthouse further along the coast at Airys Inlet. Although you couldn’t climb this one, we were able to walk around the grounds, and to the far more impressive viewing platforms free of charge. Not only that, but our early arrival meant we had the entire place to ourselves.
We stumbled across several hidden gems along the route, including two close to the town of Lorne. Teddy’s viewpoint, in the hills above the town, provided a different perspective above the road, as it winds around the clifftop. We also enjoyed the short walk to Sheoak Falls, where we joined a group of monks taking photos at the base of the waterfall
One of the highlights of the road is definitely just the drive itself. The winding roads track the cliff edges and along certain sections your are met with an incredible view around every corner. This made focusing on the driving particularly difficult at times. Our favourite section was between Apollo Bay and Lorne, where you rarely lose sight of the ocean.
While we were expecting incredible ocean views, the more inland sections of the road were almost equally impressive as you travel through huge, dense forests. This was also true of the drive through the Great Otway National Park to the Cape Otway lighthouse.
Our journey meant we could only really travel from West to East, and while this was great, you can see why it is suggested to travel in the opposite direction. Not only are you closer to the edge, but the majority of the lay-bys are on that side of the road, meaning it is far easier to make unexpected photo stops.
We stayed two nights while driving along the Great Ocean Road, firstly in Port Campbell and then in Lorne. Despite being smaller of the two, Port Campbell seemed far busier, and the 12 Rocks Cafe we chose for a drink was clearly very popular! Although on the quieter side, Lorne was another lovely town, with a great beach which I’m sure is packed all summer.
The road ends in the larger town of Torquay, a popular surfing destination and where clothing brands Ripcurl and Quiksilver were founded. We watched some surfers in action at Bells Beach, before doing some shopping at the Surf City complex.
We really enjoyed the Great Ocean Road, and it definitely lived up to our very high expectations. In fact, after booking tickets to watch the cricket in Melbourne on Boxing Day, we are thinking of spending Christmas Day driving the Great Ocean Road again!